By: Holly Horning
The PR people are working overtime, folks. And I fully expected their work to begin in earnest after the first of two sweeps.
In previous blogs, I gave away the secrets of those who work in public relations and crisis management. I’ve done enough work with them to recognize the fingerprints. They are the footsteps you hear before you actually witness the results.
If you really want to know what is about to happen to the team, check out the local newspapers. The stories all give hints of what is happening behind the scenes because the PR people are spreading the word, lining up interviews and calling the reporters with stories.
It’s a good way to find out who will get more work, who will get less and hint at changes down the road. A good case in point was the article recently on Andrew Romine and how versatile a player he is. It focused on how many positions he’s played. It came across as friendly, low-key kind of piece but there was intent behind it.
A day later, Romine was written into the lineup as the starting CF. The article was actually a “warm up” piece meant to prepare fans for the change and lessen the inevitable questions that would be posted on social media. Because, believe me, their job is to keep track of all the comment boards so they can address the fans’ hot buttons.
Their job is to stabilize the boat, spin perception, ease fans’ worries and keep the turnstiles clicking. Not only that, but they also address the overall perception of the organization to enhance the team’s value to other potential players and calm the nerves of players who are undoubtedly feeling unsettled and apprehensive about what may be happening to their team. Afterall, the athletes need to stay focused.
And the PR people have a lot of work to do. Especially since the “Twitterverse” started reporting weeks ago that Mr. I had grown impatient and had reached out, presumably, to Jim Leyland.
It’s their job to keep the finger (or in this case, paw) on the pulse of the public.
We’ve been through the controversy of Avila’s announcement last year to keep Ausmus as manager. Then it was the closed-door clubhouse meeting in April with the GM in attendance on the heels of a humiliating loss and sweep by the Indians.
But the bad news continued to roll downhill with an increase in losses, two sweeps and too-numerous-to-count questionable moves by Brad within the past week. Moves that the non-local tv announcers have routinely been criticizing.
First, it was ESPN’s announcers calling his moves on Monday night “curious and questionable.” On Tuesday night, it was the Nats tv analysts who were stunned with the move to put the winning run on first base via a walk.
They asked their staff to call the Elias Sports Bureau to find out the last time a manager actually made that move. Further compounded by Ausmus’ intent to walk a man in order to pitch to the guy who had hit 2 HRs off the Tigers that night. The Nats’ tv crew were trying not to laugh.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’re seeing daily articles in the papers interviewing Tiger management in support of Ausumus. The first, predictably, an interview with Jim Leyland who gave a ringing endorsement of Brad’s skills and affirmation that he’s not interested in the job.
The next day, an interview with Lloyd McClendon, which also hinted that he’s going nowhere north. Oh, and the expected “Brad is doing a great job” quote. Direct attempts to squash the rumors that Brad’s departure was imminent.
We can probably also expect interviews with Gibby and Tram soon.
Quite frankly, it is the job of any organization to protect its employees. Fans do want to hear that changes will be made but that information is not going to come out in public until after it happens. And that is a good thing.
Anyone under intense scrutiny like Ausmus deserves to be treated with respect and have any analysis of their performance happen behind closed doors. It’s the professional thing to do.
Is there discussion going on behind closed doors? Absolutely. Will changes be made? Most probably.
But change is not an easy process and it doesn’t happen overnight. No stable organization makes a change just for making a change. And no organization will make a quick or weak change to compensate for the original poor decision. At least, let’s hope not.
Especially when any new manager will require at least a 3-year contract. The Tigers don’t want to hire someone new simply for the sake of getting rid of their current manager. That will create a whole new set of problems that really won’t resolve the problems.
The other issue to consider is the available candidates. And that’s where things get tricky. There may not currently be anyone they really want. A person who will make a difference. The right manager who can solve the issues related to under-performance.
Sometimes the best action is no action in the very short-term. Sometimes it’s waiting until the right moment. And we really want change to happen at the right moment. If it happens before then, it means things have taken a turn for the worse.
So when will the right moment happen? Obviously, it depends upon the pool of candidates and whether the Front Office is thinking interim or permanent. And then there’s the interview process which now is monitored by MLB to ensure equal consideration.
But when it’s time to finally make that change, look at the Tigers’ schedule. The change will most probably happen on an “off” day.